SYDNEY - There is no longer any threat to Australia’s aviation industry from an alleged plot to bring down an airplane, the prime minister said Thursday, with officials planning to modify some heightened security measures that have led to long delays at airports this week.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the country’s intelligence agency is restoring the aviation threat level to what it was before four men were arrested in Sydney on Saturday in connection with what authorities dubbed a credible threat to bring down a plane.
“The threat to aviation from the plot that was uncovered to bring down a plane has been disrupted and contained,” Turnbull told reporters in Perth.
Security was increased at all major Australian international and domestic terminals following the arrests, leading to massive lines and delays for travelers. On Thursday, Turnbull said while enhanced security measures will continue, they will be modified to reduce delays. He declined to offer any details on what changes will be made.
Passengers this week were urged to arrive at airports an hour earlier than they normally would, but Turnbull said he expected the suggested arrival times to return to normal within the next day.
Officials have provided few details of the alleged plot, including the precise nature of the threat or any airlines involved. On Tuesday, the United Arab Emirates’ national airline said it was working with Australian police in the ongoing investigation, suggesting one of its planes may have been targeted in the plot. Etihad Airways refused to confirm, however, if it had been a target.
Police have yet to charge any of the men who were arrested, and one — 50-year-old Abdul Merhi — was released without charge Tuesday night.
New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said Thursday that he expects the three men still in custody will be charged, characterizing the evidence against them as “very strong.”